Saturday, September 17, 2011

Change Yourself, Change The World pt. 2

Well, I said I would follow up my last blog with more of the same, so here I am. Being mindful of your moment to moment existence can be a wonderful thing. I have a friend who is making great strides in his personal and day to day life by practicing meditation and mindfulness. He is much more confident, patient, and clear. Often times, when someone hears "meditation" they immediately think of the Beatles sitting around with the Maharishi or some dude like the Dali Llama sitting lotus for 38 consecutive hours. But that's just not reality for the regular human being who has a lot to do on any given day.  The five minutes of turning yourself inwards I talked about in the last blog? That is meditation. If you start it and you find that you like the re-focus it brings, try upping the amount of time you spend on it by just a little bit, or try doing it 2 or 4 times a day, as time allows. But, you have to make time. If you really want to gain some focus and start living in the present, it takes practice.

I guess today, I want to touch on finding out who we are. Before I write about that, I want to add my usual disclaimer; I don't know shit. I only know what I know and I have just a basic understanding of some of the stuff I talk about. Anything I suggest or whatever might not be for everyone. I just know what is working for me. I slip up and bust my ass sometimes, but for the most part this stuff has helped me develop insight into the nature of our society and culture. It has also helped me get a better understanding of who I am and how I need to treat others. Old patterns are hard to break (hell, I spent an hour yesterday arguing on an internet thread......bad Freddy......bad Freddy), but a good first step is to recognize when you fall back and get right back to moving forward again. 

Who are we? Who knows? Most of us define ourselves by our race, nationality, body type, job, political affiliation, and our sports or pop culture "fandom". If I AM "Freddy, the white warehouse manager" then I don't have much to live for other than pleasing an idea of myself and not developing who I really am or want to be. A good first step after attempting the mindfulness thing is to try to get inside your own head. That voice in there, try to think around it. Don't let it carry you off, focus on how you are living your life. How do you see other people? Are you worried about how they see you? How do you perceive the lives of others? 

As an example of what I'm getting at, I'll use myself. Freddy has more times than not, been a person who was quick to be aggravated, was (still am) selfish, didn't (still don't) deal with failure well, disregarded those he didn't know personally, had a short attention span for those he loved at times, as well as worrying a lot about the future. Now, I'm sure I have some good traits too, but those are not what I saw (or see) very often. If I see all of the aforementioned as negative traits and I don't want to be that person, then I have to change my thought patterns. I have to keep my reactions from becoming automatic. I have to gain control of my thoughts to become the person I should be (or want to be). 

My goals are to be more like this (in no order of importance);
1) awake to how the world around me (society/culture) works
2) be more patient and understanding when dealing with other people
3) react to each situation and live from the standpoint of love
4) be "in the moment" when talking with my kids
5) help other people (who want it) to remove obstacles in their lives, if I'm capable
6) deal with the truth and the reality of our world and our minds
7) give back as much as I take
8) live in the moment
9) looking at other living things with respect, compassion, and love

All those things are attainable for me (and for anyone else). But, I have to work on it. Those are things, that if I correct and put in to action, I can be happy with. I would love for that to be me. When I talk to that inner voice, that's what I want going on. I am making strides in these areas. I slip up constantly, but there are some areas that I have changed in my "personhood" that may never come back....and that makes me hap-hap-happy. Hell, I'm ashamed when I tell someone to "have a great day" and they look at me like an alien ate me up and I'm just a pod person now. I know they don't expect me to be pleasant or care about how their day goes. Again, I'm ashamed of myself for being that way for soooo long. So long that it's become how other people see and define me.

So, once a person becomes comfortable with starting to figure out who they are on a moment to moment basis, it probably won't hurt to start reviewing your beliefs. Not just religious beliefs, but your world view. How do you see strangers? When you see a young kid with his pants drooping off  his ass and hat on backwards, do you immediately think "idiot, loser"? Yeah, me too. But, that's the very thing that we need to guard against. Maybe the kid is not an idiot loser. Maybe the kid really is smart, he is just a slave to the culture he is being brought up in. Perhaps he is socially awkward and the only group at his school that seems to accept him are the "droopy drawer" kids? Try to remember how you felt as a young person and some of the "rebellious territory" you staked out as you conformed to your peers or the culture of the moment. I've hired quite a few kids that other places wouldn't. Young men with tattoos all over them, earrings, nose rings, and that sort of thing. Often times they work out. Sometimes they do not. But, it's about the person and our attitude towards them that will bring about reality and not a preconceived, stereotypical vision of someone.  Honestly, we tell ourselves we are not bigots or racists, or we're not prejudiced, but sometimes we sure act like it. A woman cuts you off in traffic and you think....or even worse, yell, "fucking dumb ass woman driver!" Or if you are approached by a panhandler, you  think "get a job you piece of shit". Is that who you are? Is that who you want to be? Is that making you a happier human being? Is that how you want the world to be? It's moments like those when you can practice mindfulness and not judge the situation or the person. Maybe that woman has problems on her mind and wasn't even trying to cut you off? Maybe she was in a hurry because her father had been taken to the hospital? Maybe she's just a bitch? But what does that have to do with you and your sense of being? Perhaps that "lousy bum" was a war vet? Perhaps he is a person who lost his family and now doesn't have a choice but to live on the street. How are you improving your "soul" or mind by judging him right out of the pocket? How do you feel when that happens to you?

Working on how you see our culture and society is tough. I won't go into my religious stuff, simply because I've done that here before. If you want to know how that has changed me, do a search of my past blogs. The thing is, I started examining what I believed from the other side of the table. I took a look at my former flag waving, war supporting, self righteous self and compared it to the person I wanted to be. It didn't add up. I love the USA.........but I never stopped to examine our policies and how we just might be wrong on some things. Am I OK with my government killing and injuring hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in countries that have no ability to run us off or fight back? Is that something we should feel GOOD about? The hand over the heart and the flag on the car patriotism, which is manufactured by our psyche at the want of the media, isn't real. We think of the idea of America and what it stands for and transfer it on to what is really happening and it makes it very easy for us to lose perspective, and more importantly, lose compassion for people with other points of view. 

Can we be OK with ourselves if we support killing children and destroying countries? What are we doing for humanity? When does justice stop and spiteful revenge take over? When will we take a look at large corporations and how they control our government and how we think, feel, and consume? When will we see that over the course of decades these corporations have bought off politicians and those politicians have passed laws that allowed for our country to be one big pile of steaming commercialism that has sucked our manufacturing jobs out of country, allowed companies like G.E. to pay less federal taxes than you and I (yep...that's the truth), and provided them with the means to exploit middle and lower class Americans? Can you see it? It's in front of your nose, if you will only think about what you believe differently. Can we be a "Christian" nation if we allow our government to kill and torture people without accountability? Can we be so if we have kids living in the streets and even the ones who have a roof over their head are going hungry? Where is our compassion for other human beings? Is a starving African kid less important than a starving American kid? Can we be a country of equality, freedom, and promise, if we fight tooth and nail to keep two people who love each other, but happen to be of the same sex, from having the same benefits to the American dream as the rest of us? It's not a matter of whether you like it or agree with's a matter of you thinking in the moment and allowing yourself to stand in their shoes. To see the world their way. To see the world with love.

I want to put this video up as another recommendation. This film was done by several middle class kids who wanted to see how other people lived. They wanted to get a feel for what it was like to be a human being from a different plane of existence. It's not the best documentary I've ever seen, but it is one of the most important that I have ever watched. It's called "The Human Experience". You can also find it on Netflix. Here is the trailer....if it doesn't spur your interest, you probably shouldn't be reading this blog anyhow. 

I don't feel like I accomplished a lot with this blog. As usual, I think this may be more for me than for anyone who may read it. I hope some of that stuff made sense. I simply believe we can't continue to stand in concrete in regards to our personal beliefs and move forward. We have to be willing to change how we see things. I can give you quite a list of bullshit that we are fed each and every day that is meant to pull on our pro-capitalist, pro-war machine, pro-producer, and pro-consumer heart strings........that all sound good going in the ears, but when you put them to the test of reality, they suddenly turn very ugly and distorted. 

Maybe I'll write more on this stuff later. I just feel sort of self-righteous telling people they need to sit across the table from their beliefs and take those beliefs on. I know that's how I sorted out my own beliefs. For me, it's now all about people, as much as it can be, in regards to where I am at in my "evolution". Regardless of race, religion, or nationality.....we have to be on the side of people. Not on the side of a government, a big chain store, a religion, or a false set of ideas of who we are supposed to be. 

Before I go, I think I will touch on religion, but not in a way to bash it or whatever, but in a way to get to the bottom level. All religions talk about the love of "God". How "God" loves everyone. How "God" has mercy and compassion. Well, if that is so (and in my beliefs I think that is true, though I have no use for practicing religion), then how can we be on the side of anyone or anything that isn't for helping people? Strip away all the  stuff that is on the surface of a religion and get down to what the creator of our universe (whether its' consciousness, nature, or a living creator god) may have had in mind for us. Does anyone believe that a creator would want us destroying each other and the planet we live on?  

Think on it. Be in the present in your mind. If you do these things, you can change yourself. If you change yourself, then you will change how you see the world. And if others notice it in you, they may be curious as to how they can start taking control of their own mind. We pass it on. We raise consciousness. We make the world a better place with the truth, love, and compassion........not just for Americans, but for everyone. 

Fever, breathe in your own cool, blue air
Look for eyes that hypnotize and sparkle
Look for eyes that hypnotize and sparkle, everywhere
Brother, brother, don't you care?
Brother, brother, don't you care?

My Morning Jacket
"Sec Walking"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Change Yourself, Change The World Part 1

This blog is specifically for a friend (Jere') who asked "Please tell me how we can do this?" to a post I made on Facebook. Yeah, I really showed Facebook didn't I?  Never mind that post from a couple of weeks back.  

Here is what I posted:
Truth isn't specific to any religion or political ideology. The truth just is and no amount of twisting it or ignoring it will make it go away. Let's wake up and take our world and country back from those who control us with fear and the promise of a happiness that can be bought. 

Now, I'm not talking about day to day things that people are involved in that may work for them and not for others. In those regards, truth can be held by the individual and not necessarily a truth for another individual. But ultimately, there is a truth to our existence, and the way our culture and society work. That's what I'm talking about. 

Before I even get going, I want to make this clear.....

I am as full of shit as anyone else. I don't believe I'm any smarter than anyone else. I don't have any secrets that others don't have access to. Really, seeing the world differently is a choice. But it's a tough one. 

Our brains were cultural blank slates when we were babies and even a little older. We didn't recognize sound, sight, noise, or smell as being separate things like we know they are now. Everything was stimulus for us. We were wide eyed, taking in everything, with no way to really process it. We were without ego. But, then as our brains developed a sense of self, we started developing our minds and who we are. All of things we have encountered, been taught, seen, listened to, etc., started forming paths in our mind. These paths would eventually map out our personality and soon after that, our world view. We even started functioning on "auto pilot". We started responding to things automatically based on our experiences. Think about how you react to a situation. Sometimes we overreact to something and then later we think back and wonder why we got so bent. Why did we react the way we did? Because it has become automatic. We were not in control of the moment. We let our unconscious mind respond the way that it had calculated we should, based on our past. That is the very thing a person has to start working on changing, if they want to start understanding themselves and who they are a little better. It's the way to change how you feel about people and our world. Most people really do want to live a life that is controlled by love....not fear, hate, or anger. Easier said than done. It takes practice and self awareness to begin controlling your mind and not allowing your brain to function on "auto pilot".

Let me ask you this; moment to moment, what are you thinking about? Are you in the moment most of the time, or are you thinking about the past? Are you thinking about the future? People spend most of their time somewhere other than the present. There is a saying almost all of us have surely heard; "there is no use in crying over spilled milk.". Think about that. It's telling you that it's nothing to sweat. It's just spilled milk. Why be upset? That saying is about mindfulness. Realizing there is nothing to be gained from being upset or angry over something that is beyond our control. Each moment SHOULD be like that. Realistically, we are not likely to get to that place. But, we can get to a level where most of our time is spent surrounding the present and reacting to situations with a "here and now" approach. Trying to be mindful of the present has helped me quite a bit in my interaction with my wife, kids, friends, and co-workers. I don't get near as many people coming to me at work saying "Let me tell you what're gonna be pissed.". I am doing my best to take each situation and approach it from the present and use the following mindset:  There are no problems, only solutions. (thanks John Lennon)  What can I do to change any situation that has happened? What can I do to "unbreak" something? Nothing. All I have is what I can do in the present to make the situation better or fix it. 

Every time that a person takes control of the moment and reacts differently than their immediate, emotional reaction wants to, they are creating a new pathway in their brain. A different approach. The old way is still there. And it will be for quite some time. But, the less you use it, and the more you use the new path, the better things will become. The "new" way will replace the "old" way. You will slip. You will fall back into your usual patterns. But, you have to immediately change that as soon as you bring yourself back to the moment. It's work. But if you want to change your world and how you feel about it, you should be willing to work on it. 

I'm going to have to break this blog up some, because this is something I could write a book on. So, I'll leave this little exercise for you as a closing point for what I'll call part one of this "Change Yourself, Change The World" blog. 

Take five minutes every day and find a place where you can just sit by yourself without any stimulus going on. No radio. No TV. No kids hollering at you. Do this with that five minutes; focus entirely on your breathing. Feel the air coming in and going out. No effort. Just feel yourself breathing and try to only think of your breathing. When you start to float away and think about something else (your day, dinner, plans)........and you will......don't be upset or beat yourself up mentally. Just come right back to the breathing and focus on it. Just keep pulling yourself back. Start doing this every day and you'll get better and better at it. Then, throughout your day, when you think about that five minutes or this blog (and hopefully you will) stop and bring your mind to the moment. If you are doing your job, be in the present and have your mind only on what you are doing, without thinking of what you are gonna do when you get home, who will win the game, how you are gonna pay the mortgage.....just push that out of your mind and focus on what you are doing. Bring your mind into the moment. Even if it's while you are washing dishes or some little task. It matters. It's practice. Even if you can only do it for a few seconds at a time. You are retraining your mind. 

Devote your mind to the moment. Because really, that's all we have. We can't go back to the past. We can't instantly be in the future. All we are and all we will ever be is the present. The past is gone and the future is an's just an idea. NOW is the most important time of your life. Live in it. 

I realize that most people are not going take the time to watch and focus on an hour of You Tube, but if you ever get the time, I recommend this video...........

The speaker is Jon Kabat-Zinn and this video is from a class he did for Google on mindfulness. Sitting with total focus on his words and putting myself in that class room, doing everything he asked, has had a significant impact on my life. Being in the present as much as possible is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. It really is. It allows you to deal with your life on a moment to moment basis instead of concentrating on what has happened and what MIGHT happen. 

Our lives are happening right now. There is no starting gun. If you are waiting for you life to begin or waiting to be an idea of yourself, you are going to look back with some confusion at the end of your life. How many of us ask, what the hell happened to the last 10 years? They happened while we were busy thinking about other shit, like the previous ten years or the next ten years. Chances are, most of us are doing that right now. 

My next blog will focus on taking this a bit further. Trying to find out who we are. I'm not talking about our name, our body, or how others see us. I'm talking about......who the hell is that voice in my head. If you took your mind out and put it in someone else's body, would you cease to be you? No.....what is in your mind IS who you are. Don't define yourself by a job, body type, skin color, religion, political affiliation, or favorite ball team. Who are you? 

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time,

John Lennon
 "Watching The Wheels"

Freddy's Open Mind on You Tube

I've created an audio/video blog on You Tube. If interested, check it out and subscribe!